Parole Board shows Iti 'some love'


The family of Tame Iti will have nearly two weeks to decide how to celebrate his release after the veteran Tuhoe activist was granted parole.

After a Parole Board hearing yesterday, Iti will be freed on bail on February 27, having served nine months of a two and a half-year jail term over his connection to military-style camps in the Ureweras.

He will be subject to conditions but the board will not reveal those before the full decision is released in the next two days.

A spokeswoman said the board was satisfied Iti no longer posed a risk to the community.

He and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara were sentenced to two and half years in prison after being found guilty during a trial last year of six firearms charges and not guilty of four. Iti's eldest son, Wairere, said the family was excited and happy to have their father coming home.

Asked about a celebration event, Mr Iti said it was a matter of "looking at what the future holds".

Mr Iti said the Parole Board's conditions on his father's release were "pretty minimal".

He said his father planned to continue his work with the Tuhoe tribe as well as the work he had started in prison by helping other inmates.

"His time in prison has also allowed him to focus on his art."

He said Iti was also looking forward to getting back to his Tuhoe rohe.

Iti's Valentine's Day wish came true with yesterday's decision.

Late last month he tweeted through family members his hope for release: "As it is valentines day ... I wonder if the parole board will show me some love." During Iti's sentencing in the High Court at Auckland last May, Justice Rodney Hansen said the only appropriate sentence could be jail. He described the rama, or camps, where people were trained in military exercises.

While defence lawyers had said the camps had been opportunities to learn bushcraft and skills to get security work, Justice Hansen said the jury rejected those explanations. "In my view, they were utterly implausible."

He said it was a mystery why Iti had devoted so much time and money to developing "military capability" when he had been actively involved in Tuhoe negotiations before the Waitangi Tribunal.

He said while there were elements of the TV comedy show Dad's Army about the training, the intent was serious.

"As I view the evidence, in effect a private militia was being established. Whatever the justification, that is a frightening prospect in our society, undermining of our democratic institutions and anathema to our way of life."

He said the actions had damaged the "growing but fragile" trust between the Crown and Tuhoe that goes back to armed conflict in the 19th century.

Justice Hansen said there had been a focus on the damage done by the police raids in the Tuhoe region in October, 2007.

"That should not divert attention from the unlawful activities which necessitated the investigation in the first place."

Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were also found guilty of firearms charges and were sentenced to nine months' home detention, at their home in Parihaka, Taranaki.

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell said he was delighted Iti had been successful in his parole hearing.

"There is no doubt that Tame has made a significant impact on the inmates that he has worked with in his time in Te Ao Marama Unit at Waikeria Prison, so I am sure he will be missed by them. However, I know that his whanau will be rapt that he will soon be home in the heart of Tuhoe."

Mr Flavell said the next step was to await the outcome of Iti's appeal before the Supreme Court. "I certainly hope that there is closure for him soon."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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